Anthony's Film Review

Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)

Effort to represent a minority group is admirable, but the film still falls flat...

Throughout the history of cinema, there has been a gradual shift towards equality for minorities in motion pictures. Blacks and Latinos have gotten more acceptance in the entertainment industry. The Asian Americans, however, are still somewhat behind. If you do see any Asians in film or television, the roles they're in are the stereotypical ones: kung fu master, doctor, engineer, delivery boy, and worker at a Chinese restaurant. Sure, there's Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Chow Yun-Fat, but what about Asians playing roles that are glorified so many times in Hollywood? You know, the bad students, gangsters, and other "cool" people.

Director Justin Lin hoped to make that a reality with his independent film Better Luck Tomorrow. I heard about this film the same way others have: through word of mouth, including from one person who emphasized how important this would be for the Asian-American community. I thought it was a cool idea to have a film about teen angst but feature Asian actors in the cast. I heard one studio was willing to buy the film if the cast were white instead. Lin refused and instead had Parry Shen, Karin Anna Cheung, John Cho, Roger Fan, Sung Kang, and Jason Tobin all take on the roles of honor-roll high school students. I think it was a great decision.

And yet, I have to admit that the film wasn't what I thought it would be. Each of the characters is supposed to represent a different character type. In fact, one of the posters labels each of the characters on it: the boyfriend, the beauty, the overachiever, the mastermind, the clown, the muscle. I could tell each character apart from one another while watching the film. However, the flat performances made them more alike than unique. I was hoping that the characters would have vivid and lively portrayals. Instead, I felt mostly monotony from the actors.

I do like the idea of the plot, though. The idea that young students who achieve the highest possible GPAs, hold numerous positions in clubs, and volunteer in many activities while still living a life of crime is frightening but true. It's especially true for Asian-Americans since this is the minority group perceived to be truly hard workers. As long as they look good in class and on college applications, they don't have to worry. That, plus having no parents around anywhere in the movie, allows them to sell test cheats, do drugs, beat up a guy at a party, commit burglary, gamble in Las Vegas, and have sex with a prostitute.

The film was OK most of the way, but the ending, while it could have been really strong and emotional, was just a small step above the dullness of the film. I just didn't feel much when the film was almost over. The film is not terrible. Just not a huge instant success.

Still, members of the Asian-American community have a film that they could at least say is significant in trying to represent them more in the entertainment industry. At least the film may provide more opportunities for Asian actors to shine. If they don't have better luck tomorrow, maybe someday they will.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Better Luck Tomorrow, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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